Three Year Update Russ Leonard 6-16-17
In less than 2 weeks I will have been retired for three years. It is hard for me to grasp that fact. Three years without working. Three great years! I am so far removed from the workplace now that it is almost impossible to ever imagine working again. That could change if healthcare becomes unaffordable or I just find something that I want to do that I actually get paid for.
Last year I broke down my retirement experience into three areas, Health, Social and Financial. I decided to take the same approach this year.
First Health. Other than a couple of injuries do to slipping on ice, my overall health and well being continues to be excellent. I continue to stay disciplined with my exercise and eating routines. I also update them as required do to the aging process. I will soon be posting a detailed description of my diet and eating habits. My wife has had some health issues but still enjoys herself despite some physical restrictions. Overall, health gets two thumbs up.
Not much has changed on the social scene. I am active with my astronomy club. I still get an occasional call from a former co-worker and occasionally go out to lunch with one of my friends from the workplace. Two or three times a week one of my friends joins me for my morning workout. Most of my social contact is with my wife and I like it that way. We just have a great time together. We certainly don't act our age and that is great. To sum it up, my interactions with my fellow man are just where I want them to be.
Now for the finances. This is the area that has been the biggest surprise. We are spending less than I thought we would. Our investments have done better than planned. Most importantly our healthcare costs are way less than I had planned for. At least for now we are way ahead of plan financially. That could change in an instant but we are in a good position to react to the unexpected. I am watching what our elected officials are doing with Obamacare very closely. I am prepared for the worst and somewhat expecting it. We will see what happens. One more year of Obamacare would be great for us.
Potential premium increases of $20,000.00 to $30,000.00 are actually possible if certain ideas become law. We can't blame anyone but ourselves. We elect them and send them to Washington.
Other than Obamacare, I have not watched the news for the last 4 months. Sure, I occasionally hear something by accident but that can't be avoided. I doubt if I missed anything important. I have a few home improvement projects lined up. Progress on those will depend upon the weather. My mental health and state of being are terrific. I am turning out to be a mellow old guy. A far cry from the aggressive, intense person that I was only a few years ago. To sum it up, my second career as a retired person is great and only getting better.
Grumpy Old People Russ Leonard 2-8-17
Since my retirement. I have had far more interaction with older people. Most of the people out early in the morning that are not on their way to work are retired. When I go grocery shopping early in the AM, almost all of the other shoppers are elderly. Since I retired earlier than most, the majority of these people are 10-15 years older than I am. I have noticed a disturbing trend. Many of these older people have forgotten their manners. Some are very rude and a few are mean and nasty. This is certainly not to say a majority are like this but too many are. Maybe it is because they are not feeling well, have chronic pain, have lost a mate or for some other reasons. Maybe it is because I live in the tristate area where people in general are ruder than the folks that live in the so called "Fly-Over States" I would love to live in a "Fly-Over State".
One of the area grocery stores gives a 5% discount one day a week to anyone over 55 years old. At first I thought that would be a great way to save a few extra dollars. I soon realized that the aggravation from witnessing rude behavior from grumpy old people was not worth the 5%. I saw many instances of rude and nasty behavior, cursing and belittling employees and they type of actions that would have earned them a good beating from their parents some 60 years ago. One older man started grabbing the groceries out of my cart the instant a few inches of belt space was open. He seemed to be in quite a hurry. I thanked him somewhat sarcastically. I recently saw one of my older neighbors at the store that I currently shop at. He wanted to know why I was no longer at the other store. I said rather loudly that there are too many old grumpy people there. That was the exact reason he wasn't there either. A very elderly woman who was standing in front of me was listening to our conversation. She turned to me and said "I shopped there once. They can keep their lousy 5%. I guess I am not alone with my observations.
There was one instance a few years back where a very young cashier entered the wrong produce code and needed a void from a head cashier. The elderly customer called her every profane word you could think of and had this girl sobbing uncontrollably. I intervened and politely suggested the he leave the building immediately for his own good. Fortunately he left without incident.
I was always told to respect my elders. That rule does not apply to all and it is a shame. People earn respect by their actions not just because they are elderly. Sure, I would cut an elderly person more slack than I would for a 30 year old but within limits. My own mother got very nasty in the last year of her life. My father who always had a ruff edge to him, mellowed to a point that I thought he had acquired a new personality from some unknown stranger. I myself, seem to be following in my fathers footsteps. I have never been this mellow or relaxed in my life. Staying away from grumpy old people helps.
Spring is Here Russ Leonard 4-18-16
After a very mild winter and a very cold start to Spring, it is once again time to start the projects around the house. Retirement changes everything about house projects. When I was working most projects were viewed as chores that were taking up my valuable free time. I actually enjoy my time working in the yard, cutting grass, etc. I now have seven days per week to schedule whatever I want to do. There is no need to try to rush and finish, I no longer have to go off to work for another week, hoping the weather will be okay the following weekend so I can finish what I started. There is not a single day that goes by, that I don't think how fortunate I am to be in my current position.
With my wife now retired we plan to do some local travel by car to surrounding states. We do not know when. We will go when the weather looks good and we feel like it. Just this morning my brother-in-law called and asked if we wanted to drive down to Ocean City , Maryland for a few days to join both him and my sister at the beach. In this case we already had some plans and appointments scheduled, so we had to decline. If not, I would not be writing this right now.
Retirement is like being unchained from a routine that was required, work. I enjoy photography and have recently been doing more night photography. One day this past week my wife and I got up at 2:00AM and drove one hour to a darker location to take some Milky Way photos. That doesn't happen when you work. The next morning I got up at 1:30 AM and set up 2 of my telescopes out front. I stayed out until 5:00AM. I then started my normal workout schedule. I did take a nap in the afternoon. Life has changed. Work has been replaced by fun!
1000 Days of Retirement! Russ Leonard 3-23-17
I can not believe that I have now been retired for 1000 days. I remember how much I used to look forward to a 3 day Holiday weekend. Now I have been retired for 333 consecutive 3 day weekends!
First, without a doubt, I am much happier than when I was working. I had reached a point where I did not even want to get out of the car when I got to work. I was treated very well by everyone. I was well compensated. I had 6 weeks vacation and great benefits. My actual job tasks were challenging and sometimes enjoyable. I felt that my efforts were recognized and appreciated. So what was the problem? I just checked off all the boxes that the so called "experts" say are important to job satisfaction. It was simple. Many of the good, well intentioned people that I worked with for years had retired or died. They were replaced by people that were only concerned with looking good and their own agenda, which was advancing their careers, often at the expense of others. These people also created a stressful environment that caused many of the remaining long term employees to turn on each other and act totally out of character. So it all comes down to people. A handful of people can turn a great workplace into anything but. It is a shame that I hear similar stories from others at different work places. Greed is rampant, profits above people, very sad. But not for me!
I am so relaxed compared to a few years ago. The most stressful part of my life was news and I gave that up almost 2 months ago. My wife's health is concerning , but we will do what we can to deal with her limitations and still have a good time.
I am on the upswing again after some injuries and related problems. I have managed to walk or hike every day since 6-29-14, which was two days after I retired. That means that tomorrow will be my 1000 day of walking in a row! Almost lost the streak when I had some back spasms in February but walking was better than sitting or lying down at the time. The most significant part of my uninterrupted streak is that I have been healthy. I would not walk if I was sick.
Our finances have been fine due to limited medical expenses. Next year may be a totally different story. If the Republicans manage to pass some version of their health care plan, we may be screwed. Our monthly premiums could increase by up to $2000.00 per month if the hard line conservatives win out. A $500.00/month increase would be okay. A thousand would cause issues, $2000.00 and I may have to get a part time job. Not something that I am interested in doing. I can not control it and I will not worry about it. I will deal with it when it is time. We will keep discretionary spending to a minimum this year in anticipation of health care hammering us next year.
All in all, I have no complaints. If I did they would not be justified. Happily retired after 1000 days!
Closing Out 2015 Russ Leonard 12-17-15
It has been a great year! The reason is simple, good health. With my wife, the term good is relative due to her many bouts with Cancer. We are both happy. Marilyn has been retired for 6 weeks and her initial transition has been good. We are getting along great so she is not sick of me yet. Hopefully that trend will continue.
With Marilyn not working, the only income that we currently have is my $14,000.00 pension. Marilyn will start collecting Social Security late next year. Obviously we can not live on $14,000.00, so we are tapping some savings. In 2015 we will only spend about $32,000.00 in total. Our expenses have actually dropped and our basic expenses are only about $2300.00 per month. A little travel and toys have made up the difference.
I actually enjoy spending some of our savings to fund our early retirement. When you are in the habit of stashing it away for years, you do not know how you will react when it is time to use it. I put it there as part of a long term plan. Now that long term plan is a reality. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I move funds from savings and investments to fund our retirement. I am pretty good at keeping track of expenses. I have laid out a new plan that probably goes out farther than we will. As long as we are able to purchase health care and barring a total worldwide economic collapse, we are set for life. Being able to say that is a great feeling. I wish you could see the smile on my face right now,
The Milky Way over our club observatory in Northwest, Ct. We make the best of our light polluted area. Note the sky glow in the bottom of the photo.
Retirement, The First 500 days Russ Leonard 11-11-15
To sum it up, better than I ever could have imagined. My wife, Marilyn just retired on 10-31-15. I continue to stay very busy with projects around the house, my hobbies and some local travel. I am very happy and content. I do not want to become complacent. I have definitely mellowed out and I am far more relaxed. This has had some negative affects on my exercise routine. Read my latest post in the Staying Healthy section for more on that. I recently joined an Astronomy Club. This club is very active in the area of public outreach. Many members go to local schools to share their knowledge and the club puts on 11 star parties each year in which the public is invited. They are also active with many of the local scouting groups. I am sure I will enjoy my involvement in the club activities. I completed my 500th consecutive walk or hike this morning. Forty degrees, windy with rain, but I did not care. It was a symbolic milestone for me. it represents the freedom to do what I want. I hope my wife's transition into retirement is as smooth as mine was.
Retirement in Winter Russ Leonard 1-9-17
I love winter, at least a real winter. Last winter was almost non-existent. We had very little snow and set many high temperature records. So far this winter has been mostly mild with a little snow. Pretty disappointing so far for snow lovers. I went for a longer walk this morning. We just had 5" of new snow and the temperature was close to zero this morning. In other words it was a real winter day. It is supposed to warm up near 50 in a couple of days so I added a couple of miles to my morning walk today. Now winter is far from over, so there is still hope.
Being retired in New England in winter is complex. If it is a real winter and you enjoy outside activities there is plenty to do. If it is real warm you can work on projects in the garage and outside. If it is in between you can't do much of either. This year has been kind of in between. My snow shoes are collecting dust and it is too cold to paint and stain my current project.
A lot of people dream of tropical vacations during winter. I am hoping for a blizzard. 2011, 2013 and 2015 were great snow years. In February 2013 we had one storm with over 30" of snow. We got 12" of thunder snow in less than three hours! The word epic is often overused but in 2015 we had an epic winter. We had the coldest winter month ever recorded (February) and plenty of snow. Hoping for a repeat, but I doubt it.
My Biggest Challenge Russ Leonard 8-6-16
It would be too easy to fall into a routine, fail to challenge yourself, get lazy or just be bored. Those things have not been an issue for me. I am healthy, happy and very busy. My biggest challenge is to fully appreciate it on a regular basis. Sometimes I find myself complaining or griping about some small insignificant things. When I catch myself doing this, I remind myself how fortunate I am to be in my current situation and how hard I worked to get here. A perfect example of this happened a few weeks ago.
I had been busy in the morning, so it was early afternoon when I finally had time for my bike ride. It was a windy day with a strong cold front approaching from the northwest. There was a high wind warning issued for late afternoon. On my outward ride, I was battling a strong headwind. That was okay because it would be a nice tailwind on the way home. Just before I was to turn around the winds calmed, then suddenly shifted almost 180 degrees. The front was passing and now instead of a nice tailwind, I was riding into a 30MPH headwind with stronger gusts. I was not happy. I was cursing my bad timing and mother nature. Then I stopped to think about it for a moment. It was the middle of the workweek for most people and I was riding a bike. I was not running around in work trying to ship something early because of someone in Marketing trying to be a hero. Or worse yet, I could have been in some corporate mandated training for 8 hours which only served to provide a check in a box for HR. The 30+ MPH headwind was looking better every minute. I admit, when I got to the one steep hill, which was dead into the wind, I still might have mumbled a few complaints. It had become a challenge to even keep forward progress but I was now enjoying every second of it. I could have used a minus 10 gear but my rarely used first gear did the job. The ride home definitely beat me up a little. After putting everything in it's proper perspective, It was a great afternoon!
Two Year Update!Russ Leonard 6-8-16
In less than 3 weeks time I will have been retired for 2 years. It is hard to believe how fast the last 2 years have gone by. So how has this great experiment of early retirement gone? First, it is not really an experiment. It was planned for years and many hours of calculations were involved before I made this very serious decision. Let's break down my experience so far into three categories, Health, Social and Financial.
Of the three, Health is by far the most important. Other than about 3 days this past winter, when my body could not decide if it was getting a cold or not, I have felt great. I still have not missed a single day of walking or hiking since I retired. My overall level of fitness is about the same as it was two years ago. I would say my overall cardio endurance is down slightly but I have recently regained a little more strength and size. The first year my weight had dropped a few pounds but I have gained it back in the last 3 months. My commitment to my health and fitness remains high. My naturally competitive mode has been replaced by a more laid back attitude. I struggled somewhat with this for a while but have now totally embraced it.
The Social scene is where the most drastic changes have occurred. These changes were expected and I am fine with the way things have worked out. I have only remained in close contact with a few former co-workers. This is by choice. My socialscene rarely involved my co-workers over the years. On occasion I meet one of my former co-workers for lunch. We ate lunch together for many years at work. Since I workout at home and no longer go to a gym, my social contacts with many of my gym friends have ended. This was expected. Out of sight = out of mind. I have made several new friends with my involvement with the astronomy club that I joined. Hanging out with people that have a common interest or passion is great. I have evolved from a gym rat to an astro nerd. I see and talk to my neighbors more than I ever did. Many of them are retired as well but most are more than 10 years older than I am. The bottom line is that socially, I am fine.
Okay , so what about the money. The Financial side of early retirement is certainly the scariest part and requires the most preparation. The biggest surprise so far is that there have not been any surprises. I put plenty of money aside for the unexpected. So far I have not needed to use any. This string of good luck will certainly end at some point, but for now I will just appreciate it and move on. Our medical costs have been much lower than expected. Obviously good health requires less medical expense. That can change at any minute and the appropriate funds have been allocated for such occasions. I did an a very detailed analysis of our spending prior to retirement. That is an absolute must for anyone planning to retire early. If you do not have a 100% accurate picture of your spending habits prior to retirement, you are taking a big gamble with your future. After two years we are ahead of plan financially.
Overall, life is good. I remain very active. I still lift weights 6 or 7 days a week, walk, hike or snowshoe every day. (this past winter was not a good snowshoe winter), ride my mountain bike several days a week and we recently started some kayaking. I bought a very large two person inflatable kayak. It paddles more like a barge but is a lot of fun. I am active with my astronomy club and now that the weather is good, I am doing a lot of chores around the house. Maybe this coming winter I will get a part time job. A little mad money for toys would be nice but I am not sure if I can find the time for a part time job. Then again, maybe this coming winter I won't get a part time job.
Never Too Old to Learn Russ Leonard 8-31-15
I have enjoyed hiking and walking most of my life. Prior to retirement 14 months ago, I typically would go for a hike or walk on Sunday mornings. I retired on a Friday and went for a walk 2 days later on Sunday and I have not missed a day since.
I have completed many courses in nutrition, anatomy, personal training and related fields in the last five years. I have learned a lot and also verified many of the things that I have been doing for many years. I learned one thing in particular that surprised me, I Didn't Know How To Walk Correctly. Now after 14 months and almost two thousand miles of walking and hiking I know how to walk!
While I was studying a section of the ACE Personal Trainer Program on posture, body alignment and mobility, it occurred to me that I didn't know how to walk. I never thought about it before. So what was I doing wrong? Pretty much everything. My head was too far forward, My left shoulder was ahead or my right, My shoulders were not aligned with my hips. I walked on the outside of my feet (supinated), especially my right foot. I did not have enough arm swing, etc. I have no idea how long I had been walking like that. I probably developed bad habits over the years, especially while compensating for injuries. I am thinking I probably walked a little funny even when I was a little kid because my childhood nickname was "Penguin".
Breaking bad habits, 57 years in the making is not easy. I still do not walk perfectly. My right foot is still slightly supinated but 90% better than it was. All of my other faults have been corrected. I have reprogrammed my body to walk correctly without thinking about it. It has taken over a year. You might be thinking,"Why Bother". It is simple. I am in this for the long haul. I train for Life. Good form and posture generates good results and minimizes injuries.
When I was 52 years old I walked 67 miles nonstop in a Charity event. The first 60 were cake. The last seven almost killed me. I wish I knew then what I know now. The following day I could barely walk. I am certain that the results would be better today at 58 years old. Mostly because I am smart enough not to try that again! And of course because I now know how to walk. This "Old Dog" loves to learn new tricks.
A Year's Worth of Comments Russ Leonard 8-3-15
One of the amazing things about early retirement has been the wide range of comments that I have received over the past year. The most common reaction was disbelief followed by "You are too young" and "Why". When I first told a few of my co-workers, ( you only need to tell a few, word spreads fast), the reactions varied. Some were genuinely happy for me. Some thought I was crazy. Some worried about losing me as a resource. Some seemed mad at me. I did give the company 3 months notice. That was for them, not me. During the months leading up to my last day, many of my co-workers wanted to know how I could retire so early. Fifty-seven is early but certainly not unheard of. There have been plenty of people retire much earlier than 57. My general response was that it is very easy when you live most of your entire adult life well below your means. My last day of work was awesome. My co-workers had 3 months to get over their initial reactions and were genuinely happy for me. All their words were kind and they were very generous with the parting gifts that I received.
My family and close friends were not surprised. I had talked about retiring early on many occasions during the previous few years. They were supportive. My mother died 3 weeks before I retired. She was initially a little surprised when I told her and she was concerned if I had enough money to stop working. When I told her how much we had managed to save, she was both shocked and relieved. She was almost 90 years old and $100.00 was a lot of money in her mind. My Dad died in 2008. No one would have been happier for me or prouder than him. Before he died I assured him that I would retire before 60 years of age. He had retired at 62 and had 20 real good years before his health started to fade.
My wife, Marilyn had been encouraging me to retire for at least a year before I finally fell off the fence and made a decision. She just kept saying ,"Just quit your job and retire". She knew that I was not happy at work and wanted more out of life than the daily grind. She was and still is very happy for me and supportive. As it turned out she had been giving me the best advice all along.
Some of the most interesting comments that I have received have been from people that I barely know or do not know at all. I ran into someone in a local grocery store that I had sold a car to about 12 years ago. He lives about a half a mile from me and I walk past his house every morning when I take my daily walk. He was relieved when I told him that I had retired. He thought I might have lost my job and become a homeless person wandering the streets. I assured him that everything was fine and I walk every day to the center of town and back for exercise. I get the occasional, "did you win the lotto or something". I have been told more than once that I look too young to be a retired person. I guess retired people are supposed to have a certain look. This retired person has been working out and eating good for the last 40 years which also might help just a little.
One recurring comment that I keep getting ( from working people) is, "You are going to get bored". That may happen some day but I doubt it. I just finished building a roof over part of my deck and I am considering building a Dutch oven out of brick or stone in the back yard. I have lots of projects lined up.
I am sure that I will keep getting some interesting comments for a while. They will probably stop when I reach "normal" retirement age. The best comment that I got was from a friend that I have known for over 50 years. Just two words, "Nice Job". Thanks Mark.
Time to Change Course Russ Leonard 7-30-15
A lot has happened in the last 13 months since I retired. Almost all of it has been very good. First and most importantly my health and the health of my wife, Marilyn has been excellent. Hopefully that stretch of good fortune will continue. Because of our good health we are way ahead of plan financially. Our basic living expenses are right on target. If anything we are probably not spending enough money. Since I walked away from a good paying, secure job it is easy to understand why I have been tentative with my spending. Now that I have 13 months of history behind me, I can loosen up a little and spend a few more dollars. We will probably go on a few local trips and I am starting to plan a major Western trip for next year.
If you have read some of my other articles on this site you may have noticed a recurring theme of someday moving out west to a small home base and travelling in an RV. That is why this is titled "Time to Change Course". Marilyn has said that is never going to happen. Her emotional attachments to our home are too great. You may think that this was a major disappointment for me. You would be wrong. Making her happy is my highest priority. I adapt well. It was never a sure thing and I am glad she made a firm decision. The RV travel still may happen, we just won't be based in Colorado or Utah. Maybe the small energy efficient cabin I was designing could be built in Maine as a vacation home. Time will tell.
So that is the big change. I have a few other things going on. I am about to ramp up my workouts a little. I hope to do it without crossing the line and suffering any type of injury. Unfortunately the line keeps moving as you get older and sometimes you do not know that you already crossed it. I am thinking about buying a bicycle. I live right near a Rails to Trails path that is mostly complete. There are some small gaps in it but when it is complete it will be 80 miles long and very scenic. I still have no desire to work. I am starting to realize that without any financial motivation and having plenty to do, work seems like it would be a waste of my time. We will see if I change my mind as time progresses.
Speaking of work, I do not miss it at all. I was happy to see that two of my former co-workers recently retired at 60 years of age. I may have started a trend in early retirements. I also now realize that I definitely could have retired one year earlier at 56 instead of 57. If healthcare had been available, I probably could have actually retired a few years earlier than that but I am now certain that I picked the right time. I am a very confident person, but I would be lying if I said that I was 100% sure that I was making the right choice 13 months ago. The risk was small and as I have said it was a calculated risk. It is a very hot, humid day. I am starting to look forward to some Winter camping.
Leaving the Workplace Russ Leonard 4-16-15
For my latest comments on retirement (7-14-17) and how I am doing since I left the workplace, please scroll to the bottom.
How Do You know When It Is Time To Retire? Russ Leonard 5-4-15
My long term goal was to retire at 59. I originally picked 59 because my wife is 3 years older and would be eligible to collect social security benefits at 62 if she decided to do so. I have always placed great value on my time as well. I retired at 57, so what changed? There were no financial incentives to retire earlier. If anything retiring those 2 years earlier made me rethink all my long term financial plans and make significant adjustments.
In January of 2014 I made a decision to retire by the end of the year. If my job was the greatest on earth I still would have retired by 12-31-14. I have nothing but nice things to say about how my employer treated me. That does not mean I liked going to work. Changes in people, ideology and many other things brought me to the conclusion that I no longer fit into the organization. That does not mean that they were wrong, it just means that I needed to leave. So for that reason I pulled in my date to 6-27-14. That was my last day at work.
I needed to leave for one big reason that had nothing to do with finances or work, my wife. Marilyn is a 4 time cancer survivor. She currently is cancer free with issues relating more to her treatments than any of her previous cancers. Does Marilyn have a normal life expectancy with all she has been through, no. She may outlive me by 30 years but if you look at reality she probably won't. On my last day at work, the Manufacturing people had a small party for myself and one other co-worker who was retiring. When it was my turn to speak, I discussed my wife's previous health issues and her current state of health. I told them that if Marilyn was to die when I was 65 years old and still working, it would be the type of regret that would make life difficult, knowing that I could have spent much more time with her over the previous 8 years.
Being able to face your own mortality and that of the ones that are close to you is critical to retiring early. I know a lot of immortals who are going to do all these great things in their 70's and 80's. Maybe they will. I hope they do but doubt if they will get the chance. One of the greatest disservices that the financial planning industry does, is treat everyone like they are going to live until they are in their 90's. They scare many people into retiring later than necessary. In many cases they do this without knowing anything about your health and your own families average age of mortality. Let's face some facts. If both your parents died before 70 and you are obese with diabetes, a heart condition and high blood pressure, 80 or 90 is probably not in your future. Thinking about and accepting the reality of death can actually lead to a more enjoyable life. Sounds strange but think about it.
So what are your good years, when you can do pretty much what you want and really enjoy life? They probably start sometime after you finish school and are settled into the working environment. This number keeps going up but for sake of argument let's say the good years start at 28. Also for the sake of argument let's say they end at 68. I know each case will be different. There are exceptions to every rule. That is a 40 year spread that I would consider the average prime of your life. If you retire at 65 you now have 3 prime years remaining. You may be alive for 20 more but are you living? That is 7.5% of the prime of your life waiting for you in retirement. Now if you can find a way to retire at 60 you will have 8 prime years left or 20%.
When you get to be in your late 50's or early 60's there is a major change that occurs in your life. Many people that you know including your parents, friends and other relatives begin to die. That is just the normal progression of life. If you knew for certain that you had 2 years to live and could afford to retire, would you? Some would't but many would. I have no idea how long I am going to be around but I can guarantee you that I am going to make the most of it.
Hit the Reset, You Are Retired! Russ Leonard 4-22-15
You did it. You left work, now what? If you are thinking that, you may already have missed out on some planning that should have been done. Don't worry, you have time to catch up because you are retired.
There are thousands of articles you can read on how to prepare financially for retirement and beyond. Financial preparations are essential and hopefully you were able to get good advice and were successful. Getting good advice is not as easy as it should be. The investor and saver are often just a tool for the enrichment of others. Check out the web site caniretireyet.com . The author and owner of this site is Darrow Kirkpatrick. It is a very interesting and entertaining web site that offers practical, common sense solutions to many of the financial questions about preparing for retirement and beyond. I do not know Darrow personally but have had the pleasure of corresponding with him on several occasions.
The transition from work to retirement often does not get the attention it deserves. Retirement is the goal of millions but how many really know what they will do in retirement and how well they will adapt. Whether you know it or not, health and happiness are your goals in retired life. The second to last thing you want to do is to regret retirement. Obviously that makes dying before you get a chance, number one. I had to throw that in for all you immortals out there that are going to retire at 70, to max out your benefits. As I write this I have been retired for almost 300 days. Many of the things that I thought I would be doing in retirement have indeed happened. Some have not. So the first lesson is, be flexible. You are making the rules now. I decided that I would not do any sort of part time work for the first 6 months of retirement. It is now 9 months and I have not worked at all. The reason is simple. I am having too much fun. Why ruin it! I am sure that some day in the future I will do some sort of part time work. Since I have no financial motivation to work it will have to be something that is very worthy of my valuable retirement time. It will most likely be fitness related.
For me, the transition from work to retirement seemed like a natural progression in life. I am sure that is because I did significant planning with regards to my sudden windfall of time. I also gave considerable thought to the changes that would occur on a social level.
When you work full time, you spend far more time with your co-workers than you do with your family. Some of these individuals may also be your friends that you see outside of the work place. By design, I had very few friends from the work place. I was a supervisor for years and I did not believe it was a good idea to hang out with my workers.
I did have many co-workers that I considered work friends. I do miss seeing some of them. Did I think that they would stay in touch, of course not. Most of your casual work friends will never call you and you will never see them again. Have you stayed in touch with all your former co-workers that retired before you? If you saw your co-workers outside of the workplace before retirement you will continue to do so after retirement. If not, don't expect to hear from them.
I happen to be the type of person that can enjoy giving a presentation in front of 100 people and equally enjoy sitting on a mountain top all alone at sunrise. I know that makes me different. I have been called many versions of "different" over the years. Retirement gives you the opportunity to have social interaction at any level that you choose. You can be a hermit or a social butterfly. It is your choice because you make the rules.
My last day on the job, 6-27-14. When I walked out that day I felt like a 5 year old on Christmas Eve. I could not wait for tomorrow and the start of my retirement.
Leaving the workplace, whether it be a job you have had for many years or a business you have owned and run is no simple task. Along with marriage and buying a home it is a major life decision. For many, retirement and especially early retirement may not be the right choice. Careful planning is required and tough choices must be made.
Many of my co-workers, friends and even family could not understand why I wanted to retire at 57. After all, I was leaving a secure, well paying job with great benefits and 6 weeks of vacation. I explained it in two simple ways. Being at work would not make my top 100 list of things I like to do and most importantly, I value my time far more than money. My Father used to tell me "You can always make another buck but you can't get one second of your life back". I must have listened because I left more than a million dollars worth of wages and benefits on the table by not working until full retirement age.
There are many things to consider before leaping into retirement. I simplified it as best I could. I am not here to give financial advice but at a minimum you need to know how much money you have, how much money you think you will have in the future and how much money you will really spend in retirement. The how much money you will really spend in retirement, may be the most difficult to answer.
Most people are really bad at estimating two things, how many calories they consume and how much they really spend. If you do not know what you currently spend, how could you possibly know what you will spend in the future? For many months prior to my retirement I kept track of every single cent that we spent. It took great discipline and was not fun but it was worth the time spent. It gave me an accurate picture of our spending habits and identified areas of potential reductions in our budget. I want to emphasize potential reductions in your budget. Until you have demonstrated the ability to implement cost savings over an extended period of time, it would not be wise to count them. It would be like buying a new wardrobe in December because of all the weight your are planning to lose during the following year.
After calculating a budget that would provide for a Happy Lifestyle, I looked into establishing two piles of liquid after tax money for the future. One being for unexpected large ticket items like new appliances, a new roof or furnace. The other to cover the great unknown, Healthcare.
If not for the Affordable Health Care Act , Obamacare, I could not have retired early. It was never the affordability of the coverage. It was always about being able to shop for Healthcare without worrying about being denied or at a later date thrown out. To me, the pre-existing condition clause is Obamacare. There are many aspects of Obamacare that I do not agree with, but I am grateful for it.
About that pile of money for Healthcare, it is a big pile. My wife is currently 60 years old and I am 57. That is 5 years until Medicare for her and 8 for me. That is a long time to pay for all of your own Healthcare. Even though our premiums are not expensive we have good size deductibles and a fairly large out of pocket max. We have put aside about $14,000.00 per year for the next 5 years and $12,000.00 for each of the three years after that. In addition we have put aside $15,000.00 for potential premium increases. That totals to $121,000.00. It hurts to even type that number. We have planned for the worse. I hope we do not even spend half of that, but it has to be there if we need it. It needs to be after tax money so it does not show as income. If it shows as income your healthcare tax credit disappears quickly. Obamacare tax credits are based on income not assets. Score a rare one for the middle class.
So we have our large ticket item fund, Healthcare fund and we know what our normal expenses are and what they should be in the future. When our Social Security kicks in, that along with my $14,000.00 yearly pension will provide us with more than enough to live on. Yes it is only $14,000.00 but pensions in the private sector have all but disappeared. My wife still works a little part time and I always could work a little if I have to. We may never even need to touch our 401K's. Could things change or go wrong? Of course they could and probably will. There is always some risk or uncertainty. For me, early retirement is a great reward that is worth a little calculated risk. Russ Leonard 4-16-15
Bad Weather Days in Retirement Russ Leonard 5-5-17
One of the challenges of early retirement is what to do when the weather does not cooperate with your plans. Today for example. It is 45 degrees F outside and raining fairly hard. Lousy weather for early May. I went for my usual morning walk, dressed appropriately for the weather and carrying my oversized umbrella. No problem there. Since I have walked or hiked everyday since 6-29-14, I have obviously seen all types of weather, wind chills of -40, blizzards, torrential rain etc. Having the right outdoor gear certainly makes a big difference when you enjoy outside activities year round. Since I knew it was going to rain today, yesterday was spent doing yard work. Being retired gives you incredible flexibility to work around the weather. But there are many days when you really want to do something but can't because of the weather. My astronomy hobby requires not only clear skies but stable atmospheric conditions. I watch the astronomical forecast closely and take advantage of all good opportunities.
The best strategy for bad weather days is to have multiple things to do both inside and out. Today I will do some baking in addition to my normal cooking. Gluten free, chocolate nut squares for my wife. We will play a few games together. If she wants, I will take her shopping later today. She is a great shopper because she likes to look but rarely buys.
I always have something to do. That is because I have multiple interests and hobbies. There are times when I may chose to do nothing. It took me a long time to realize that doing nothing can also be a great thing to do. I just don't make a habit of it.
I Could Be an Old Man Russ Leonard 5-23-17
So I recently turned 60 years old. When I was 20, someone that was 60, was very old. When I was 30, someone that was 60, was old. When I was 40 someone that was 60, was pretty old. When I was 50, someone that was 60, was older. Now I am 60. Am I old? Statistically, on average my life is 75% done. That is not a pleasant statistic! I feel young, which is good. I currently do not and never have taken any form of maintenance prescription drugs. That is good. I am physically fit, eat a healthy diet and I am very active. Just to make myself feel good, I will say that I am a young old.
This was the first birthday that I ever even thought about. Something about turning 60 was very strange for me. Maybe a heightened sense of mortality. Maybe a subconscious fear of losing what I have in terms of health and lifestyle. Hard to make sense of it but something was different on this birthday. But, I feel great and I am very Happy!
Early retirement was definitely the right choice for me. It makes this old man feel young and energetic, even at 60. I am coming up on 3 years of retirement. Yesterday a former co-worker gave me a call to check up on my retirement status. He was thinking of retiring the same year I did. Three years later he is still thinking about it. He can't pull the early retirement trigger and probably never will. It is not for everyone. It takes a serious commitment and a lot of self confidence. I am still a long way from 70. Seventy is definitely a dinosaur.
About to Enter a New Phase of Retirement. Russ Leonard 10-4-15
After months of trying I have finally succeeded in convincing my wife, Marilyn, to retire. She has been working part time for the last 10 years in retail. Her work schedule varies and changes every week. She will finally have a normal schedule called "Retirement". This will be her last month of work.
She does not have as many hobbies or interests as myself and is concerned that she will be bored. I am encouraging her to try new things. She loves to spend time in the yard and garden. She loves her flowers. Next spring we will have our first vegetable garden in over 30 years. That will be her project. I have offered to make her a greenhouse out back if she would like to start her planting earlier. Before that she has to make it through the winter. I love the winter and associated outdoor activities. She does not share my enthusiasm. We will see what happens.
One thing she is planning on doing is starting a regular exercise and walking schedule to improve her overall fitness level. Speaking of walking, I still have not missed a single day of walking or hiking since I retired 15 months ago. If I can keep the streak alive until 11-11-15 it will be 500 consecutive days. I bought a mountain bike two months ago and have added a daily ride, weather permitting, to my routine. Hopefully I can go from biking to snow shoeing without much downtime. We will see if the weather cooperates.
I am very excited about my wife's retirement. So far I have had no luck in talking her into a camper of some sort. I have not given up on that. Overall, I am very happy, enjoying good health and having a lot of fun. I spent a little money on my photography and astronomy hobbies and I think I am slowly turning into some type of astro-photo-computer nerd. And I like it!
February 2013. Finding the cars after over 30" of snow and 6 foot drifts. The top of the snowblower is about 44" high
It all Comes Down to HealthRuss Leonard 3-11-17
I am now in the midst of trying new things with respect to my fitness and health. I am no longer the decision maker, my body is and I am paying close attention. I have a good feeling about my future health. At the same time my wife's health has been slowly deteriorating. As a multiple cancer survivor she is now paying the price for all her treatments that may have prolonged her life. She is a 40 year Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor and a 10 year Breast Cancer survivior. She also suffered 2 recurrences of the Breast Cancer. She is 12 years past her original "expiration date" as given by doctors years ago. We are currently trying to find out why she gets winded so easy from minimal exertion. We already know she has a large pleural effusion of her left lung from massive radiation but that is not nothing new. Hopefully with a few lifestyle changes and some medical help she will continue to be happy and retired for a long time to come. I have a lot of practice being a caregiver and a positive motivator. Back in 2007 when she was suffering terrible side effects from her chemotherapy I made her a Viking Hat to wear and told her to suck it up and be tough. ( she is Swedish) After witnessing her go through 11 surgeries over the years and never taking even one pain pill, I can say for sure that she is a true Viking descendant.
The Holidays are Different Now Russ Leonard 12-15-16
It is hard for me to believe that is the third Holiday Season since I retired in June of 2014. I know for some people the Holidays can be stressful for a variety of reasons. Family and economic pressure being two of the most common contributing factors. I was fortunate not to experience any of the common Holiday stress over the years. I always had the ability to say no, even when pressured by friends or family. If a so called "tradition" became too much work or an inconvenience, I would just stop doing it. I may have ruffled a few feathers over the years but they got over it.
It seems that this year I am just not as excited about the Holidays. The reasons are obvious. First, most of my immediate family has died off. Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles are all gone. Locally I have one sister and a nephew. They will be coming over on Christmas. My wife no longer has any family in CT. Friends have drifted away due to the fact that I am no longer in the workplace or gym. I am not lonely by any means. I have always been comfortable giving a presentation in front of a large crowd or sitting alone on top of a mountain. I fit in to my surroundings easily. The biggest change for me has been the fact that the Holidays were always associated with a break from work. Most years I had the week between Christmas and New Years off. Now I have everyday off and I am very grateful for that. I also have become tired of the commercialized Christmas. I am not a religious person but Christmas is a religious holiday first, not an excuse for "Black Friday" specials. The stores were full of Christmas items before Halloween this year. Halloween is growing in popularity, the Christmas sales are starting earlier every year and Thanksgiving is getting squeezed out. Grandma would not be happy if she was around to see this.
I will still enjoy this Christmas. I like to cook and have been thinking about what I will make this year. We are down to four people so I certainly do not have to make a lot of anything. My other sister who lives out of state will be visiting in early January. They stay local with their grandchildren over the Holidays.
So, enjoy whatever Holiday you celebrate. Take time to appreciate your family while they are still around. I have some great memories of large Christmas Eve gatherings at our house over the years with both my family and my wife's family. It was kind of like the Adams family meets the Munsters.
Maybe there is something I miss about Work Russ Leonard 10-30-16
This morning I made a run to the local Walmart for some household items. On my way out I heard a car horn beeping several times. Seemed a little unusual but I looked around and didn't see anything or anybody. Then I heard a loud and somewhat familiar voice, yelling across the parking lot, "Hey Old Man I would recognize that bald head anywhere". It was one of my former co-workers, who is black, the size of a house and is also bald. He came over and gave me a bear hug and we chatted for a while. It was great to see him, made my day. It got me thinking about some of the guys in the factory whom I worked with over the years. I can't say everyone always got along and everyone always liked each other but for the most part we did and had a lot of fun mixed in with the job. It was the type of fun you are not allowed to have anymore, totally politically incorrect. We had fun at each other's expense. It wasn't harassment, bullying or racism, just shop humor and funny as hell. We had guys from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Poland, Italy, Puerto Rico, Cuba, other Caribbean islands, Ivory Coast, French Canadians, etc. It was a United Nations of machining. It was America. We had one guy who was born in Lithuania, moved to Venezuela as a kid and then to the U.S. We never knew what language he was speaking. For the most part we got along and got our jobs done. No-one cared where you were from, what color you were or if you were gay or straight, as long as you made good parts on time.
For those of you that never worked in a factory or are a little younger, understanding our brutal sense of humor would be very difficult. Now a days we would all be fired for what we said or did. Ethnic jokes were the norm. The funniest Italian jokes that I ever heard were from an Italian. People did not get offended. They just sharpened there skills making good comebacks.
So, I guess I do miss something about work. Yes, I miss the guys a little, but what I really miss is the comradery and they fact that such a diverse group could work so well together with a little light hearted fun at each others expense. This is coming from a Dutch, Irish, English, Spanish, Austrian, Polish and Hungarian mutt who took plenty of good shots over the years. My comeback skills were honed to perfection.
Blissfully Ignorant Russ Leonard 4-26-17
It has been almost three months since I have read or listened to any news.* Of course there are times when I accidently hear about something that is going on. Friends or family on occasion seem to think that I need to know something and will try to tell me. I shut them off immediately.* On my own I have kept up with the Obamacare Repeal and Replace effort. This is one area that I need to keep up with because it has the capability to produce life changing results for both me and my wife. I have my own opinions on health care which I will be sharing shortly in my next tip of the month.
The positive impact that my decision to "tune out" has had on me is dramatic. World events and especially politics are stressful. This past election cycle has torn families apart and turned lifelong friends into enemies. Whatever happened to respectful disagreement? On the relaxed scale, I am at an all time high. There are lots of reasons for this but "tuning out" is one of the primary reasons.
I certainly have not become anti-social and have no current plans to abandon civilization and move to the middle of nowhere. (Not this week)
Early March 2015. It just kept snowing and never melted. The most awesome snow shoeing ever. Hiking without snow shoes would have been impossible. Last year was a tennis shoe year.
Glad it is Over Russ Leonard 10-20-16
That would be Summer like heat. The last two days were not typical New England Fall days. They were in the low 80's and just too warm. Today it is much cooler and in a couple of days we will be back to normal. We had a very warm Summer. I did not like it at all. It seems the older I get the less I like the heat. This Summer was very warm with brutal humidity and very warm nights. I changed my routine to help me cope with the heat. I went on my walks before I lifted weights so I could be out in the coolest part of the day, early AM. This meant that I was walking in the dark everyday. I am not afraid of the dark but some common sense changes were required. I wore a reflective vest and I carried a very bright blinking strobe light. Though most of my walks are on sidewalks and trails, I still have sections where I am on busy streets. One of the advantages of walking just before sunrise is the abundance of wildlife that you see. That is not without some risk. I have no concerns about the coyotes, foxes, deer etc. My biggest fear, SKUNKS! A few weeks ago I was walking not far from my house. I got that strange feeling that I was not alone. I looked down and right next to my left foot was a skunk, walking along side me like it was my pet. His tail was raised so I slowly accelerated my pace and got out of there. The following day the area had a very intense skunk smell. I think I got lucky.
Back to the heat. Because it was so hot this Summer, I did not complete many outside projects. They will still be waiting for me next year. I am really looking forward to Winter. Last year was a bust for snow lovers. 2011, 2013 and 2015 were massive snow years. I am hoping the odd year cycle continues. If it does my snowshoes are ready. I definitely want to do some winter camping this year. It gets more and more difficult to find someone to go with me as each year passes. My friends must be getting older. Maybe they should retire. It certainly made me feel like a kid again.
End of an Era Russ Leonard 7-14-17
For the past 33 years I have been an early riser. Getting up from 2:45 AM in my working days to 3:30 or so since I retired. I have had enough of early to bed early to rise. Tomorrow I will be getting up at the previously unthinkable late time of 4:30 AM. That might be early for you but it is late for me. I still plan on getting the same amount of sleep (see this months tip) and going about my normal routine. There is no longer any reason to get up so early. I had been doing it so I could workout with one of my friends a few days a week. I need to follow a schedule that is best for me. It is also very difficult to go to bed at 8:15 PM in the summer when the sun is still out. It will be less disruptive to my wife and we can eat dinner a little later. On late astronomy nights I will continue pushing my schedule ahead depending on how late I am out.
I have been doing some mountain biking lately. It is not as easy as it used to be. After a 90 minute workout, a several mile walk and a 7-10 mile ride, I am shot. That is not to be unexpected but it is new to me. I still have the energy of a 30 year old but not a 20 year old. At least that is what I am telling myself. I am very grateful for what I can still do at 60 years of age.
Another Year, Another Financial Plan Russ Leonard 12-31-16
I just finished my year end financial analysis on how we did in 2016 and laid out the spending plan for 2017. To sum it up, it was another fantastic year. The reason is simple. We both avoided any serious illnesses or injury and our medical expenses were minimal. There are a lot of things that could have an impact on whether a year is good or bad. After 2-1/2 years of retirement it is becoming obvious that our health and potential medical bills are the most important. I know every year is not going to be good. As time goes on I would expect every year to get worse. For now, we are grateful. I don't discuss our investments. I am not qualified to try to influence others or give financial advice. Overall we are doing fine and I will leave it at that.
In 2016 we spent a total of $36,000.00. That was up from $32,000.00 in 2015. Two thousand of that was from the price differential between selling one of my cars and getting a new vehicle. I also spent a few thousand dollars on my astronomy hobby this year. I am currently building a telescope and the total cost will be a little over $3000.00. I have already spent most of that money. The only large household item that needed replacement in 2016 was the refrigerator. We have budgeted plenty of money for large ticket household items. We will need a new roof in a couple of years. I did the last roof some 25 years ago but this time I plan on hiring someone. We have a bucket of money put aside for unexpected medical and household expenses.
We do not have any large purchases planned for 2017. We will spend a little on some local travel. We are thinking about buying a tandem bike. We enjoyed our inflatable kayak this past year and will probably buy a regular tandem kayak this year.
If we stay healthy and nothing large breaks or needs replacement, 2017 will come in at less than $40,000.00. We have allocated $46,000.00 for the new year. You read a lot about how much of your pre-retirement income you will need during your retirement. We have gotten by on less than 30% of our pre-retirement income so far. We are having fun and spending money (mostly me). At our level of income we almost do not pay taxes anymore, with the exception of property tax. We paid a lot of taxes for many years. I had no idea how little tax is paid by low income people. I never thought about it. Now we are low income people. It has made me reassess my opinions on our current tax code. I will be nice and just say that it needs to be revised. Happy New Year!
Big Lifestyle Changes are in the Works Russ Leonard 3-2-17
I am currently evaluating my overall health, fitness and happiness and will be documenting some major changes that I am currently making. My next Staying Healthy post will explain it all. As of today one month without watching or read the news. Did I miss anything important? Probably not. I did google "latest on Obamacare". I did not need to. Republicans fighting amongst themselves. No new news there. I also checked on who won the Daytona 500 just out of curiosity, Otherwise, I am ignorant to the world. Feels good.